Arrest – Meaning

According to Benjamin Odoki’s Guide to Criminal Procedure in Uganda, an arrest is the temporary deprivation of liberty for the purpose of compelling a person to appear in court or other authority to answer a criminal charge or to testify against another person.

A judicial officer may at any time arrest or direct the arrest in his or her presence, within the local limits of his or her jurisdiction at the time and in circumstances to issue a warrant. Where any offence is committed in the presence of the Magistrate, he or she may arrest or order any person to arrest the offender and he or she may thereupon commit the offender to custody or release him or her on bail.

Section 56(2) of the Magistrate Court Act and Section 6 of the Trail on Indictment Act, the court may order the arrest of a person by issuing a warrant in writing, signed by the judge or magistrate issuing it, bearing the seal of the court, stating the offence charged and order the person to whom it is issued to apprehend the person against whom it is directed and bring him or her before the court. The Court issues the warrant of arrest in circumstances where it is necessary to secure the appearance of an accused person to answer a charge after a charge has been laid against the person by a public prosecutor or a police officer or been drawn by the judicial officer on the basis of a complaint. The warrant may be directed to one or more police officers or chief named in it or generally to all police officers or chiefs. The warrant of arrest may be executed in any place in Uganda and it remains in force until it is executed or cancelled.

Police officers may also in certain cases effect arrest without seeking an arrest warrant. In all arrest, the police shall use reasonable force in making an arrest. The police officer making the arrest shall actually touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested, unless there be a submission to the custody by word or action. Killing in the course of preventing crime or in arresting offenders is only justifiable where there is an apparent necessity to do so. There is no need to use excessive force such as discharging firearms where the suspects are unarmed or are nor carrying dangerous weapons. Notwithstanding the above, section 16(1) and (2) provides that a police officer may use firearms to effect arrest in the following circumstances;

  • Where a person in lawful custody charged with a felony escapes from custody or attempts to do,
  • Where a person, by use of force, rescues or attempts to rescue another person from lawful custody or
  • Where a person, by use of force, attempts to prevent or prevents the lawful arrest of himself or herself or any other person.

Important to note is that, the police have powers on receiving information of a design to commit any cognisable offence or on their own interpose to prevent any injury attempted to be committed by arresting. This is referred to as preventive arrest.


No information contained in this alert should be construed as legal advice from Centre for Public Interest Law or the individual authors, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

For additional information in relation to this alert, please contact the following:

Gad A. Kisaalu

Legal Officer, Litigation & Advocacy.

an arrest is the temporary deprivation of liberty for the purpose of compelling a person to appear in court or other authority to answer